Gorilla Trekking and Luxury Safaris
Immerse yourself in the ultimate gorilla trekking experience across Rwanda and Uganda.
There is nothing more magical, nor more privileged in terms of African wildlife experiences than a gorilla trekking and safari tour. If contemplating a grand tour of Africa, then coming upon these gently grazing giants in their natural, jungle domain, would be an unmissable highlight.
The best places to hike in search for these heavily protected species is Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Both in the Bwindi Forest and Volcanoes National Park, there are ten habituated gorilla families, with a maximum of eight visitors permits per day.
Each family has undergone a very delicate process over the years that gradually makes them accustom to humans, but are no means tame. The strict limitation on permits means they are not to interfered with too much and why you also need to book your place a year or two in advance. For a truly intrepid (and often private) experience of mountain gorillas, venture into the DRC and Virunga National Park. We would also recommend at least three nights in your lodge or camp in or near the national park.
One of the most picturesque and green places in Africa, the valleys of Rwanda are an enchanting place. Seeing the gorillas in the tiny areas that we, as humans, have left them is a privilege that not many people get to experience in their lifetime. It is also one of the most important things you can do as a responsible tourist.
Gorilla trekking and safari example trips
FAQ's for Gorilla Trekking
Should I visit Uganda or Rwanda for gorillas?
- Rwanda is the smaller country of the two, so travel time between the airport and the Volcanoes National Park, home of the gorillas, is under three hours.
- The gorillas here live at a lower altitude than in Uganda, making trekking easier and across shorter distances.
- Volcanoes National Park is made up of lush bamboo forests. This allows more sunlight penetration in the forest and therefore greater visibility for photos.
- Gorilla permits are more than double the cost as those in Uganda.
- You can combine a gorilla safari with a big game safari in Akagera National Park, which is a great area for leopard spotting.
- Golden monkey tracking can be done in Volcanoes National Park, so there is no need to visit another park, if time is an issue.
- There are plenty of accommodation options, from mid-range lodges to top luxury.
- Uganda is a large country, it takes approximately 10 hours driving from Entebbe airport to Bwindi (over a distance of around 600km). This means an internal flight may be required.
- Gorilla permits are much more affordable, less than half the price of Rwanda.
- Due to the high altitude the gorillas live at here, trekking can take much longer. The forest itself it denser, so visibility can also be an issue.
- Golden monkey trekking cannot be done in Bwindi. To do this, you must visit another park such as Kibale National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
- Uganda is a great choice for combining with a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park and adventure white-water rafting in Jinja.
What should I pack for gorilla trekking?
- A pair of lightweight waterproof walking boots, worn in.
Lightweight, quick-drying hiking trousers.
- Gardening gloves (due to the stinging nettles and sharp bamboo grasses)
- Waterproof hiking jacket or poncho, with hood or waterproof hat
- Waterproof over-trousers or gaiters
- Good walking socks (long enough to tuck your trousers into)
- Water bottle or canteen (water and a packed lunch will be provided by your camp)
- Walking sticks are provided by the lodge or park authorities but if you have your own feel free to bring them
Can I touch the gorillas?
No. The gorillas are wild animals and as such you should not attempt to touch them. It’s recommended to stay approximately seven metres away at all times. Since tourists can also pose a health threat to small vulnerable populations of gorillas, its also advised for guests to wear a mask while visiting.
What is the best time of year to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate, with lower temperatures due to its elevation. 2600m (8500ft). The long rainy season lasts from March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. The long dry season is from June to mid-September. October to November is a shorter rainy season; followed by a short dry season from December to February.
Rwanda can be visited at any time of the year and gorilla trekking is a year-round activity. Singita Volcanoes National Park’s covered golf carts have waterproof roller blinds and transport guests seamlessly from the main lodge to their suites when it rains.
Popular lodges and camps for gorilla trekking
Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp$$$$$Impeccably placed for tracking the wild gentle giants of the Bwindi and inconceivably sophisticated for its remote location, the Sanctuary Gorillas Forest Camp combines a very special jungle atmosphere with one of the most magical wildlife experiences there is. Sitting aloft one of the high flat ridges of this, the UNESCO-protected Bwindi Forest, this simple but explorer-chic lodge has eight tented, standalone rooms built on wooden decking and en suite bathrooms furnished with the likes of bathtubs from where you can look out into the forest as you soak. The outdoor campfire area is where some of your meals to swapping stories take place, and there’s a communal cottage with a bar and restaurant for eating and relaxing in with the other guests on cooler nights. However it’s the daily activities here at the camp that are the real star of the show, from community walks to meet local tea-pickers or the shaman of the Batwa pymgy tribe, to guided forest walks to spot the park’s captivating flora and fauna. But most come to track the magnificent gorillas of Bwindi with expert guides traversing the thick foliaged slopes happening upon family groups grazing. Gorilla tracking is all year round and is always with a group of no more than 8 people at a time.
Virunga Lodge$$$$$Sitting atop a 2,300-metre hilltop with panoramas of the ‘twin lakes’ of Ruhondo and Bulera and the string of Virunga volcanoes laid out in front of you, this eco-lodge and its scenes truly sum up the magic of central Africa. Eight ‘naturally’ stylish banda cottages (4 double, 4 twin) are set out in this property’s beautiful terraced gardens, affording each a share of the superb views and a good helping of privacy too. En suite bathrooms and running solar hot water allow you to enjoy luxurious comfort with always a minimal environmental impact too. Paved pathways converge on the property’s main lodge for dining, massages, the curio shop, bar and lounge, and all with stunning views. Apart from the truly personable level of luxury and staff hospitality here at Virunga the lodge also excels in a wonderfully diverse and extensive menu of daily activities and local cultural excursions.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge$$$$$Sitting high on a ridge top with views across Uganda and to the forested Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is aptly named. The main lodge building is bright and airy, with a huge lounge, bar, candlelit dining area and terrace from which to enjoy the vista at breakfast or at night when the orange glow of Mount Nyiragongo’s lava lake can be seen on the horizon. Eight stone cottages are found a little down the slope, each homely with warming fireplaces, huge windows and large bathrooms, Two of these have two-bedrooms with a small living area in between. The border of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is on the opposite slope of the ridge, meaning you can meet your guide and walk straight into the park to meet the gorillas. You can also go on a guided walk of the local village, visiting projects and the school which the lodge supports, getting an insight of what its like living next to the forest and its ape inhabitants.
Bwindi Lodge$$$$$Located on the misty green slopes of a valley close to the Buhoma gate of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Bwindi Lodge is perfectly located to track the forest’s famous inhabitants and experience the local community. There are eight stone and timber, glass-fronted guest bandas with thatched roofs strewn down the slope. Each has been hand crafted and enjoys wonderful views out to the forests on the other side of the valley from their private verandahs. Locals till the volcanic soil in the hills up to the primeval forest’s edge, where wildlife including chimpanzees, mountain gorillas and monkeys jumping from tree to tree can sometimes been seen from the lodge. The main activity here is gorilla trekking into the national park. There are also numerous hikes and trails to sights such as waterfalls and tea plantations, and the chance to meet the locals on community tours. After a day in the forest, return to the lodge for complimentary massage, a drink by the bar’s fire and a dinner out on the terrace.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge$$$$$Seated in the foothills of the Virunga mountains there are three things to look forward to when staying at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge: breath-taking views from every angle, warm and helpful staff, and seeing the captivating mountain gorillas in their wild natural habitat on your daily treks. The eight spacious standalone cottages are decorated in a homely style and their seclusion really adds to the ample and individual privacy here. On the other hand the big fireplaces, appealing lounges, library, dining area and curio shop of the main lodge give the whole property a warm and convivial personality, and where guests can relax and talk excitedly over the exploits of their day. Again, the staff do their utmost to assist you in whatever way they can and the food served at Sabyinyo is delicious and surprisingly elegant for its far-flung setting. On the whole Sabyinyo is a fantastically sophisticated and friendly base to explore this very poignant part of Africa.
Jack Hanna's Guest House$$$$$Once home to the American conservationist Jack Hanna, this private guesthouse was recently refurbished to provide smart, modern accommodation right in the heart of the Volcanoes National Park. The house is located within the ground of another currently closed property, Gorilla Nest Lodge, commanding views of the nearby nine-hole golf course and the towering volcanoes beyond. With its own private garden as well, you’ll feel connected with the surrounding landscape. Jack Hanna’s consists of the main house and 2 ensuite bedrooms, comfortably sleeping four adults or a small family. Constructed of local stone, with a spacious lounge and enormous fireplace, dining area and inviting living room, the house is kitted out with a blend of modern and antique furnishings and international artwork. Bedrooms include double beds, ensuite bathroom, a seating area and access to the veranda and private garden; a relaxing spot to spend your evening enjoying sundowners in front of the mighty volcanoes.